This should have been posted yesterday, I apologize for the delay.

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She was waiting by his car when he emerged from the building a few minutes later.

From the entrance of the tall building, he could read the unmistakable fear in her eyes.

He did not know what was responsible for it but he strongly sensed it was the sudden turn of events in her life.

“Why do you want me? Why not anybody else? I am not the best singer in Lagos, please tell me why me.” She bombarded him with questions the minute he got to where she was, her eyes searching his, desperate for answers he couldn’t give.

He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, “I will tell you everything when the time is right, but for now, we have to go and eat lunch with the business partner I told you about.”

She wanted to hesitate, he sensed that in the way her eyes avoided his when he mentioned lunch together and the way her shoulder gently eased out of his firm but gentle grip.

“Ife, this is what you want and you know it. I understand the fear you feel right now which is very normal but don’t throw this opportunity away.” the words were uttered gently and quietly, so quiet that if she was not inches away from him, she would not have heard them clearly.

“I’m scared.” She whispered the words, afraid to say them louder than that.

Abiola had stopped by to threaten her before he dashed into the building some minutes earlier.

As usual, he had been serious and intimidating and she had almost burst out crying.

“Don’t be.” Ayo held her hands, both of them, he squeezed it and added, “I will be by your side every step of the way.”

And for some inexplicable reason she believed him.

She believed this handsome stranger who she knew scarce nothing about and who had chosen her out of thousands to give the opportunity of a lifetime.

“You are not going to be alone.”

Ayo was not sure why he drew her close for the hug, he just found himself pulling her into his arms and holding her tightly; maybe it was the fear in her big pretty brown eyes that revealed how vulnerable she was or maybe because he did want her to know he was not lying when he promised to be there for her.

Whatever the case was, it felt right to hold her like that – her head on his chest, his chin above her shiny black hair, his hand gently stroking her hair carefully so he wouldn’t scatter it.

Ife inhaled sharply the strong cologne he wore.

It invaded her senses and sifted through her mind, causing a wave of some strong emotion she could not figure out yet.

One thing she already figured out however was, she liked how he smelt.

♡ ♡ ♡

Lunch was a lot of greens and flavored water for Ayo and it was fish and chips with a tall glass of juice for her.

She had never eaten in public with cultured strangers like this man around her so she stared hard at the fish in her plate as if waiting for it to stand and find its way to the river it came from.

They were on a Yacht, a black Yacht with the name Ayo boldly written on it.

From where she was sitting, she could see the Civic centre and another Yacht a short distance away.

It was a good view – the water in its serene beauty, peacefully rocking the magnificent yacht was some feet below and very tall buildings which she had only seen courtesy of newspapers and of course, Nollywood, presented themselves to her in their grandeur, where she sat.

This view and where she saw it from somehow reminded her of where her life was at the moment – She was sitting somewhere close to success and power, somewhere she could view the life she had never had and somewhere that could thrust her into millions and fame in a short period if she made the right choice.

“You don’t want that?” He asked her.

Her eyes wandered back to the plate from the buildings around her.

“I want.” She replied, her eyes now finding his.

He frowned a little when he asked, “So why are you not eating?”

He looked dignified where he sat opposite her – cutlery held properly in both hands and a napkin neatly placed on his lap while he ate.

Ife guessed he would be in his early or mid thirties, Amanda had not given her that piece of information but she strongly guessed he would be.

“I will eat.”
And she did begin to eat because then, their guest appeared. It was multi award winning female director, Seun Williams.

She gracefully eased into a seat near her after embracing her warmly and blowing so many kisses, Ife was worried her bright red lipstick would rub off on her face.

Ife took advantage of their discussion to focus on her food, she cut the fish well now because she knew nobody was looking at her.

“Ife can do that.”

She glanced at Ayo, fish in mouth. “Do what?

Because she knew the food in her mouth was going to make her look uncultured,  she managed to swallow the whole thing before she asked again, “Do what?”

“Record a song for my movie coming out next month.” Seun replied, “Ayo says you have a great voice. I want something good and different. Jesse Jagz is doing the the rap and I won’t mind for you to do the chorus.”

She gaped at the woman with fine skin and great diction as she spoke the words to her.

Just like that?

She did not even know what to respond with.

Seun tapped her hand gently, “Please say yes.” She pleaded as if Ife had a choice.

“I’m sure she would love to. She can hit the studio with Jesse Jagz as soon as he’s ready.” Ayo had bailed her out and so Ife took the opportunity to down all the juice in the tall glass in front of her.

“He was mentioning coming over to the studio tonight, I know that’s asking for too much but…”

“She would do it.” Ayo cut in. “She would be at the Studio tonight with Jesse Jagz.”

♡ ♡ ♡

She was grateful when he delivered her to the studio and promised to be back for her that evening.

They had arrived the quiet house at the end of an equally quiet street where the studio was located.

The building and the studio both belonged to a popular entertainer in the country, Ayo had explained and then had held her by the hand and guided her through the security at the door, past a wide reception and into the big studio – the biggest her eyes had ever seen.

Then he had greeted the producer, the most popular in West Africa, a Ghanaian named Macafui but who everyone called Mac.

He promised to be back after informing Mac to take care of her and then he disappeared through the door, leaving her in the hands of the chubby and beer bellied Mac.

Ife was happy he left because she was very shy whenever he was around her.

She always looked away quickly whenever he stared at her that way he stared at her.

She could not give a name to the way he stared at her yet but she knew it was a way that was strong enough to make her look away.

“Jesse is almost here.” Mac said with a warm smile and then added, “But I’m grateful he is not here yet so let us busy ourselves with familiarizing you with this place and testing your vocal strength.” then he laughed as he led her into the recording booth where he added, “Not like I am a voice coach or anything but I know a little about these things.”

She merely nodded, not like she knew any different from vocal coach and producer at this point.

She had started singing from the church and after a heavy rain had destroyed the small shed they converged in for services, she had reduced her singing to while she was doing chores or whenever she was depressed.

“Do you have a single or any song you have composed yourself?”

“No.” Ife said

“Okay… er what’s your favorite song?”
She searched for it, not because she did not know it but because she had different favorite songs for different purposes.

“I like a lot.”

“Choose one.”

“Bobo Mi.”
His face was blank, clearly he did not know what song it was.

“Waje’s song. It was P Square that sang it but she now sang another version.” She quickly said and then a look of recognition spread through his face.

“I love that song. Good. Good, let’s do it.”

He helped her with the headphones and told her where to stand in front of the microphone.

When she was ready, he left the recording booth and took his place behind his keyboard.
“Let’s go.”

She started the song, quivering at first because she was nervous but soon blanked Mac out when she shut her eyes and then began to own it like she did every song she performed.

Jesse Jagz had joined them in the studio as they recorded, unknown to them and he listened till the end after which he said, “I want her on my next album.”

♡ ♡ ♡

“I don’t like this, Ayo. You are never this impulsive. Something is wrong and I don’t like it.” ‘Detoun was leaning on his desk, her arms folded.

Abiola was standing near her, unsmiling.

“Guys, believe me when I say this girl is good. Just trust my judgement for a second. Please.” He was pleading with them because he wanted them to see reasons with him.

He never pleaded, he was too egoistic to beg people to see reasons. Usually, If they did not see reasons with him then good luck to them but right now, he desperately wanted them to see reasons.
“I cannot do this without you guys and you know it, I just want you to see this girl beyond the ghetto rat you see now. She is talented and might be the biggest bargain we ever took.”

Detoun looked like she would budge but she faced Abiola, “Abbey?”

“Detoun you do not need Abbey to make up your mind.” Ayo said calmly.

He needed just one person on the board on his side at this point and if he got one, the other person would have to agree.

“I don’t like this idea.” Detoun was facing him now.

“I know. But you would like the millions it would bring in.” He said with a chuckle.

‘Detoun couldn’t resist that, she smiled back and shrugged.

“Wait, you are going to let him pull you into this joke just like that?” Abiola was irritated.

“Abbey, I don’t understand what changed with you but with all due respect, if you can’t say it, I can’t help you.” Ayo snapped, he was beginning to get worked up by Abiola’s refusal to change his stance despite his pleas.

“Okay now.” Abiola stormed out of the office, the door slamming shut behind him.

Detoun looked at the door and then Ayo, “I think he might have genuine reasons.”

“Then he should say them instead of acting like a woman.”

Ayo was irritated
Detoun slapped him on the shoulder, “Women are the ones that act like that abi?”

Ayo smiled and pulled her closer, his nose sniffing in the fragrance she wore, “Lailai… women are the best things in the world.”

She chuckled at his response and then giggled when his lips began to nuzzle her neck.

“When last did we do it on the table ehn, Detoun?” he had a boyish smirk on his face.

“Go away joo.” she said, pushing him gently.

“I like when you say that, it means oya”.

He shut the door behind them, returned to where she was, took her to the table and parted her legs.

Then he slid down her panties from under the knee-length leather dress she wore.

♡ ♡ ♡

She watched him shake hands with Jesse Jagz after the two of them had exchanged banter about an hour later.

Then he faced her and told her it was time to go.

Jesse Jagz waved at her and reminded her of their next studio session the next day.

“Jesse mentioned you don’t have a phone.”

Ife nodded as she strapped herself in beside the handsome millionaire in his car.

It was dark already and she was hungry.

The day had been long but eventful and for the latter, she was grateful.

“Okay. I sent a message to Jen already, you would have one by tomorrow morning.” He said simply, started the engine and pulled out of the parking spot.

Ife relaxed her head on the seat and watched him as they drove away from the studio, the world was at his finger tips.

“I know you must be hungry but at the same time, you have to get back home to see your mother so I will buy you food and you can take it home.”

He had everything covered and figured out.

She thought his world must be organized and well structured, nothing could go wrong with him or his world.

“We are going to my house first so you can pick something to wear tomorrow.”

“Okay.” She said, directed her gaze on the road that was illuminated by street lights and the lights from the cars that slowed down in traffic.

It was a welcome distraction to see Lagos like this at night and it was also a welcome distraction from staring at the man beside her.

♡♡ ♡

Abiola was making himself a sandwich in Ayo’s kitchen when they got to the latter’s mansion.

“How far?” Ayo asked as he helped himself to a bottle of chilled water.

“I came to see you as per some new deal ni jare. Kabiyesi thinks it is something we should consider investing in.”

Abiola spread the paste he’d made from magarine, corned beef and sardine on the two slices of bread in the plate before him on the kitchen counter.

“Ehen? No wahala but that would have to wait a bit.”

Abiola was taking a bite now, “You have plans?”

Ayo nodded in response, “I wan reach Apete.”

Abiola paused, “Apete.” he repeated slowly.

“Yeah. I want to go and drop Ife.”

“Balo what is it with you and this bitch now?”

Dazed, Ayo asked his best friend in a steely voice he never really used on him, “What’s the meaning of that?”

“You don’t  know her enough!”

Ayo was repulsed, “And how many of the four acts you have signed in ten years did you know enough?”

To that, Abiola gave no answer.

“And aren’t they all responsible for the several millions dancing in your account?”

Ayo strode towards the kitchen door, “I will see you when I get back.”

Abiola chewed the remaining sandwich absentmindedly, Ife was not going to be signed and he was going to ensure that.

♡ ♡ ♡

Ife believed that day was the best in her life yet.

When  she got home, she had recounted the day’s experience to her sick mother and her enthused best friend.

They were happy, optimistic and excited that she knew at that very moment that there was no going back.

She was taking the opportunity even if it was to see her mother light up the way she did that night.

“Tell him you want iPhone o, Ife. He should not bring Android here, celebs don’t use Android.” Amanda said when Ife was seeing her off to hers an hour later.

Ife laughed, “Whatever jare. Phone is phone.”

“No. Phone is not phone. Android is phone, iphone is device.” And she chuckled after she had made the statement.

When Ife returned to her house minutes later, her boyfriend, Lanre was waiting for her.

They sat outside on a bench, her head on his shoulder, listening to the sound of crickets and occassionally, chasing mosquitoes from each other’s bodies.

“How did your day go?” He asked her idly, in that voice that constantly made her wonder if he meant the question or if he asked out of habit.

“Fine.” She said because she believed he did not truly want to know.

Minutes later he kissed her and left.

Then she walked into the house and laid beside her mother, dimming the lantern which was their only source of light and slept peacefully.

It was the first peaceful sleep she was having in years.

Outside the house however, Abiola emerged from the darkness and approached Lanre who was leaving the house.

“She would be leaving you soon you know.” Abiola began to say.

The look on Lanre’s face encouraged him to proceed.

Lanre looked like it couldn’t happen, like Ife would never leave him and embrace another.

He scoffed in response and made to leave.

Abiola stood in his way.
“I’m not joking.”

“You are one of those stupid aristos that want to pay the boyfriend off abi? Better leave now before I call the boys around here. I’m sure they’ve told you how dangerous Apete boys are.” Lanre was not kidding, he could see that and that made him excited.

This type of guy would not watch his girlfriend walk away under the guise of becoming a huge star while being mentored by Ayobami Balogun.

“Did she tell you where she was today?” Abiola was not backing off and he was not leaving Lanre’s way either.

When Lanre did not respond, he continued, “She was with Ayobami Balogun…”

The slight look of recognition that filled Lanre’s face when he mentioned his name made him go on.

“She is about to be signed to his label. If she did not tell you, she is hiding something from you and she wants to leave you. Question is can you take that?”

There was a smile playing on Abiola’s lips now as he said finally, “You don’t believe me? Google partners at Gidi Music and know who I am.” he handed his phone over to Lanre.

Lanre returned the phone and shoved Abiola out of the way.

But minutes later, when he got into his room, he retrieved his phone and googled partners at Gidi Music and there was Abiola’s picture close to Ayobami Balogun’s and Detoun Sam-Dickson’s.

Ife had lied to him once in the past about her pregnancy and she was doing so again, his blood boiled over.

He was going to kill himself, her and her mother before it happened again.

He was not a Wolf for nothing.

-Tomilola Coco Adeyemo

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